Place de la Bastille square is the historic location of Bastille fortress, whose storming (on July 14th, 1789) started the French Revolution.
When the French lost in the Battle of Poitiers (1356), one of the battles in the 100-year war against England, it became a priority to build a fortress to defend Paris from invasion.
Construction work on this defensive fortress, known as Bastille (officially “Bastille de Saint-Antoine“), commenced in 1370, and completed twelve years later, in 1382.
The massive defensive fortress had four-meter thick walls and a total ofeight towers, each 25 meters (27 yards) in height…and surrounding the building, there was a grand moat.
Later, when a need for a defensive fortress had subsided, Bastille was converted (from orders of Cardinal Richelieu) into a prison.
Many of those sent to the prison were enemies of the king, starting with the first prisoners, sent there by King Louis XIII.
PHOTO: Central to the square is the “Colonne de Juillet” (“The July Column”), built to commemorate “Trois Glorieuses”, or the “Three Glorious” days in July of 1830, when King Charles X’s rule came to an end, and King Louis-Philippe’s “July Monarchy” began.
PHOTO: “Génie de la Liberté” or “The Genius of Liberty” statue on top of the Colonne de Juillet. The sculpture, by Auguste Dumont, is of a nude figure standing on one foot, holding in his hands the torch of civilization and the remains of his chains. The statue is inspired by Mercurius by Giambologna.
Among the famous people held at the Bastille fortress were Voltaire andMarquis de Sade.
With time, Bastille prison gained notoriety among Parisians, becoming a symbol for the arbitrary administration of law under monarchy.
On July 14th, 1789, Bastille was stormed by a crowd of people, who were joined by rebellious troops from the national guard, releasing the 7 prisoners that were held in Bastille at the time.
Storming of Bastille later became known as the moment that started theFrench Revolution.
Nowadays, storming of Bastille is celebrated in France every year with a national holiday (by a law dating back to 1860), as the “Bastille Day”.
Two days after storming of the Bastille, the leadership of the rebellion gave orders to demolish the fortress.
Today, the place where the fortress used to be is marked by a memorial placate (at Boulevard Henri IV).
If you’d like to see some of the original foundations of the fortress, they are available for viewing at the “Bastille” metro station.
The current day square at the location, Place de la Bastille, was built in1803.
Later, in 1814, as a highlight for the square, it got a 24 meter (26 yard) tall fountain in the shape of an elephant, a design by Jean Antoine Alavoine…
….to which Victor Hugo makes a reference to in his book “Les Misérables” (www.gutenberg.org/etext/135). However, that magnificent fountains was also demolished, in 1847.
The only historic monument still remaining at the Place de la Bastille is the Colonne de Juillet, added to the square in 1840, a monument that celebrates the end to the reign of King Charles X (and replaced by King Louis-Philippe) in 1830.
The 52-meter (56 yard) tall column is a design by Jean-Antoine Alavoine (who also had designed the elephant-shaped fountain).
Engraved to the column, in golden letters, are the names of the 504 Parisian victims who died in the three day coup of 1830.
Design for the Colonne de Juillet with the golden Génie de la Liberté, The Genius of Liberty, statue on top, was inspired by the Trajan Column in Rome.
Place de la Bastille
Address: Place de la Bastille, 75004 Paris, France